Some people never change. Then again, some do.
The Indiana Pacers are a completely different team than we have seen the past few years in Indianapolis. There is something different about this set of guys. These guys all hustle, they all get along, and they are actually fun and exciting to watch.
The young talent that has been assembled here is similar to the pattern that was adopted by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not to say that Danny Granger and Darren Collison are on equal footing to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but they are going in the right direction.
Indiana has won three of their last four games, and the one loss was a last minute one at the hands of the Orlando Magic. One of those wins includes a trip down to Miami where Dwyane Wade struggled, and the Pacers bench soared. It seems Indiana has a secret weapon this season. It looks familiar to some, but it is far from the same weapon they have had at their disposal the last couple of years. His name is Brandon Rush.
The wrap on Brandon during his short NBA career, is that he is one of the most inconsistent players in the league. One game he will dazzle you and make you feel good inside, then he will go out the next couple of games and look about as hesitant as a child learning to ride their first bicycle. It appears (for now) that he has flipped the coin on that idea.
Most people are aware that Rush missed the first five regular season games this year because of multiple failed drug tests last season. This suspension put him in the dog house with the Coach, and the team.
As the regular season was about to begin, Pacers coach Jim O’Brien felt that Rush was going to have to fight for playing time. He believed that Mike Dunleavy and Paul George had the first and second string shooting guard positions locked up. He even stated that A.J. Price was probably ahead of Rush on the depth chart. It looked like a bitter and disappointing end to Rush’s stint with the Pacers.
Call it a wake-up call, call it a scare, whatever. It looks like we have a motivated and determined Brandon Rush playing basketball this season. This looks like the same guy I saw putting on a display at the University of Kansas.
This is the guy that doesn’t look timid, doesn’t appear to be disinterested. This is the guy the Pacers organization and fans wanted to see when they made the trade for him a few years ago. He came out strong in his season debut for the blue and gold this year, but his last four games, he has really shined brightly.
Last Thursday night at Conseco Fieldhouse against the L.A. Clippers, Rush had a very solid night. He finished with 14 points, five blocks, five rebounds, and shot four of five from downtown. Two nights later against the Orlando Magic, Rush again put up 14 points in a very hard fought game.
In Monday’s signature win in Miami against the heat, Brandon played fantastic, with 20 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Finally, in last night’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Brandon put in 16 points and three rebounds in the win.
Over this four-game stretch, Brandon has been playing an average of 31 minutes per game, whether he is starting or coming off the bench. In those four games, he is shooting an incredible 61 percent from the floor (26 of 43) and 50 percentfrom the three-point line (seven of 14).
Those numbers are incredible, especially for a guy that hasn’t had any consistent play in the NBA. Probably the most important stat from those four games: Indiana’s 3-1 record.
While the offensive numbers speak for themselves, perhaps it is the defense that is winning over head coach Jim O’Brien and the staff. He has been asked to do a lot of the defensive end of the floor the past week or so.
He had to defend Eric Gordon on Thursday, Vince Carter on Saturday, and Dwyane Wade on Monday. He played a pivotal role in Wade having his worst shooting game of his NBA career. He was very frustrated, going just one of 13 from the floor, and finished with just three points.
The defensive assignments don’t get much easier down the road for Brandon. He may be asked to help with Westbrook and Durant on Friday night, then Indiana travels to the Staples Center in LA to face Kobe and the Lakers. Brandon seems up to the challenge, and seems comfortable with his new style of play. He has been a key part to the early success of the Pacers, and he knows he must continue if they want to win.
Brandon may not be the star of this team, but putting him with guys like Granger, Hibbert, and Collison will only make this team even stronger. The recent play of this team has a bunch of people around the league talking. Many people are starting to believe that this is one of the most improved teams in the league this year.
Some are looking at this Pacers squad as a playoff team, something the fans and organization would love to see here in Indianapolis. It’s still way too early to put a label on this team, but we are sure of a couple of things. Indiana has a winning record, the team is playing very well, and the young nucleus seems to have been formed.
One thing is for certain: the turkey is going to taste even better tomorrow after these last four games.